Sam Bird secured his first podium of the season at Putrajaya 12 months after he took his first victory in Malaysia last season.
However, Bird was close to not being on the grid last Saturday and Ds Virgin Racing’s Team Manger Leon Price and Cheif Technical Officer Sylvain Filippi told us what went on in the garage before the ePrix.
25 minutes before the pit lane opened for the cars to make their way around to the start-finish straight, there was a loud bang on Bird’s side of the garage that caused a nightmare scenario for the Brits mechanics, as Price explains.
“The charger on Sam’s car shorted out and caused it to blow up! There was a loud bang and a lot of smoke pouring out, obviously we had to work out where the smoke was coming from, get the fire extinguisher and clear everyone out of the garage.
“Unfortunately, the charger was connected to the battery, and as it was just finishing its charge, it caused some internal damage to the battery,” said Price.
Normally to change a battery and fit it with a new one takes approximately an hour and a half, but by the time the team got to work on the car there were only 25 minutes until lights out as Filippi explained.
“At this stage it looked doubtful that we’d make it to the race with Sam’s second car. It takes between an hour and an hour and a half to change a battery completely which we didn’t have.
“But the team were absolutely brilliant and pulled off the job of the century and managed to completely rebuild the back of Sam’s car in time for the race. This was without doubt the most hectic thing we have experienced in Formula E so far,” said Filippi
However, the problem for the team was not as straight-forward as it seems. Jean-Eric Vergne had two battery changes before the start of the race. One on Friday and another after qualifying. So the team were not just busy working on Sam’s car before the race.
This meant by the time Sam’s car had his problem the team had no spare batteries available. So Leon Price went on a search down the pitlane to find a team that would allow them to borrow a battery.
Luckily for the British team the Trulli team were not racing in Putrajaya, and they were allowed to take a spare battery for the race.
“We had no spares batteries. The Trulli team kindly offered to lend us one of theirs, as they weren’t racing. However, they had to get their mechanics to take it out of their car while we were taking Sam’s out of his car. In between all of this, I had to get permission from the FIA to change the battery. It was a race against the clock!” said Price.
Bird started 14th on the grid and after a crazy last couple of laps, the Brit ended up in second place that brought joy to everyone in the garage after what they had been through before the race.
“It was incredible and quite emotional when you’ve been busting a gut like that all day in the heat. The guys didn’t have time to stop and eat, and they barely had time to drink!
“To cross the line in 2nd made all the hard work worth it. It was quite emotional and a good feeling. We had a disappointing result in Beijing and to come away with a podium is fantastic,” said Leon Price
“For the team it almost felt like a win. The day was one of the most difficult that we have had since we started; we were still rebuilding his car just before the race started, so to even be in the race let alone second was an incredible achievement from the team,” said Sylvain Filippi.